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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

With the Old Breed by E. B. Sledge

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Military History

Setting:  In battle on the islands of Peleliu and Okinawa during World War II.

First Sentence:  I enlisted in the Marine Corps on 3 December 1942 at Marion, Alabama.

This memoir served as source material for the HBO miniseries The Pacific.

This book is unique among war memoirs.  E. B. Sledge gives us an unvarnished description of life and death for the front line marines.  The battles for Peleliu and Okinawa are remembered as two of the most savage battles during the Pacific campaign.  The fact that the Japanese soldiers preferred death to surrender made these battles especially gruesome and barbaric.

Sledge describes for us the horrors of the battle field.  The Marines endured extremely harsh conditions.  From the heat and coral dust of Peleliu to the rain and muck of Okinawa, the marines faced death from the climate as well as the Japanese soldiers.

The Marines were ordered to attack against a well fortified enemy.  They were driven to exhaustion carrying ammo and supplies to places mechanized vehicles could not go.  And they lived for weeks amongst rotting corpses, squirming maggots, and human excrement.

The experience of war for the front line soldier is very different than our sanitized movie version.  "Sledgehammer" shows us what battle is really like.  In the end, for Sledge, there was no glorious victory. There was only the knowledge that he was one of the lucky ones.

I liked this book.  If you are a military history buff, I believe you would like it too.  The descriptions of the battle field were gruesome, but not graphic.


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